The poetry page

Favourite Christmas poems

Christmas tree

What is your image of Christmas? Probably this one. A Christmas tree with red and gold decorations, surrounded by gorgeously wrapped presents. A time for family, friends, festivities and an undeniable sense of childhood nostalgia, the Christmas season brings with it so many sentiments. Not surprisingly, poetry is a key feature of many of those memories, from funny Christmas poems, to moving festive verses, all perfect for reading by the fire over the festive season. The first poem here I used to read to my son every Christmas Eve before bed, right up to his early teenage years. I'm sure you know it!

A Visit from St. Nicholas

Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,
And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:
"Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer, and Vixen,
"On Comet, on Cupid, on Dunder and Blixem;
"To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
"Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys — and St. Nicholas too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dress'd all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish'd with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look'd like a peddler just opening his pack:
His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow.
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh'd when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill'd all the stockings; then turn'd with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight —
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

Now some of you will be questioning me at this point — about the names of those reindeer! Who are Dunder and Blixem? Shouldn't the names be Donner and Blitzen?

Thereby hangs a Christmas Tale, as they say! You can read more about the convoluted history of this beloved poem at https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/the-donner-partys-over/

Of course, there are poems which take a different view of the reindeer situation.

Help Wanted

Timothy Tocher

Santa needs new reindeer.
The first bunch has grown old.
Dasher has arthritis;
Comet hates the cold.
Prancer's sick of staring
at Dancer's big behind.
Cupid married Blitzen
and Donder lost his mind.
Dancer's mad at Vixen
for stepping on his toes.
Vixen's being thrown out —
she laughed at Rudolph's nose.
If you are a reindeer
we hope you will apply.
There is just one tricky part:
You must know how to fly.

Reindeer

And thinking about alternative viewpoints always brings me to Benjamin Zephaniah!

Talking Turkeys

Benjamin Zephaniah

Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas
Cos' turkeys just wanna hav fun
Turkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked
An every turkey has a Mum.
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas,
Don't eat it, keep it alive,
It could be yu mate, an not on yu plate
Say, Yo! Turkey I'm on your side.

I got lots of friends who are turkeys
An all of dem fear christmas time,
Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it
An humans are out of dere mind,
Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys
Dey all hav a right to a life,
Not to be caged up an genetically made up
By any farmer an his wife.

(First 2 verses)